Member for Shellharbour Anna Watson has urged Shellharbour City Councillors to step up their direct consultations with the local community over the controversial Shellharbour City Hub proposal during a debate in the State Parliament this afternoon.
“This is a big project and it is incumbent on those who support it to directly put the case to the community and to persuade residents of its necessity.
“If the case for the project cannot be sustained because of community opposition, then the Council should revisit the scope and financial viability of the whole endeavour”, she said.
Ms Watson also said that those opposed to the project needed to stop outsourcing their failure to persuade five Councillors to vote against the proposal on the Council floor.
“Councillors Marsh and Moran should stop outsourcing their dismal failure to persuade five of their colleagues to the merits of their argument.
“Instead, they try to shift responsibility for their failure to other levels of government and this Parliament.
“I say to all Councillors: this project is a matter for your Council to resolve.
“You were all elected to make these hard decisions.
“If you support the project; convince the residents.
“If you oppose the project; convince your colleagues to vote with you against it”, she told Parliament.
Ms Watson also challenged Member for Kiama, Gareth Ward MP, to put up a Private Members Bill if he was so strongly opposed to the project so his Government and the Parliament could vote on it.
“The Member for Kiama’s speech will be like the Good Year Blimp – full of hot air and all for show.
“I challenge him to bring forward a private members bill to give legislative affect to the demands in this petition and stop this project in its tracks.
“He is a member of the Government with a substantial majority in this place.
“He could, if he was serious, have the Government and Parliament vote on a bill before the end of the year.
“But the Member for Kiama actually agrees with my position”, she said during her speech.
Ms Watson also revealed that Council had advised her that Mr Ward had not made one single representation on behalf of a constituent to the Mayor or Council on the Hub issue (letter attached).
Ms Watson told Parliament that the Shellharbour City Hub proposal was actually kicked off by the former Liberal Mayor, Councillor Kellie Marsh in 2012.
“The Member for Kiama and the Liberal Party in Shellharbour City have been desperate to air brush Councillor Marsh’s key involvement out of this project ever since”, she said.
Ms Watson said that the City Hub proposal had been before Council on 20 separate occasions since November 2011 and that every resolution had been carried unanimously by all Councillors or opposed by only two Councillors.
“Simple arithmetic makes it completely fanciful to claim, as some do, that only two of seven Councillors is a Labor majority”, she said.
Ms Watson acknowledged that the Shellharbour City Hub project is one of the more controversial issues faced by Shellharbour City Council in many years.
She also acknowledged that the Stop The Hub Community Group had achieved an important objective in collecting over 10,000 signatories to the petition and having it tabled in the State Parliament and called on the group to negotiate their concerns with the Council directly.
Ms Watson also told State Parliament the Minister for Local Government, The Hon Paul Toole MP, in responding to the petition in September 2014, had said:
“Ultimately the issues raised in the petition are essentially matters for Council to deal with at the local level.
“In the long term, the local community can demonstrate its support or dissatisfaction with the performance of individual councillors or the Council when voting at council elections.”
Ms Watson said she would “continue to call for talks, negotiation and compromise by the Council and community stakeholder as part of the decision-making processes that the Council must undertake in ultimately determining the Hub project’s future.”
13 November 2014